Dr. Sandra Bunn-Livingstone initially thought she would become a missionary doctor. But God had a different plan in mind, Dr. Bunn-Livingstone told students at Palm Beach Atlantic University last week.
After college, Dr. Bunn-Livingstone decided to defer medical school and sign up to serve as an English instructor in China’s Inner Mongolia region, a place so remote that “they had not seen a white person for 40 years,” she said, speaking in the DeSantis Family Chapel during PBA’s Career and Calling Week.
She later decided to enter law school, and thus began her career as an international justice lawyer.
Dr. Bunn-Livingstone serves as executive director and senior managing partner of Jus Cogens, an international law firm dedicated to promoting human rights worldwide.
Her career has taken her around the globe. While working in South Africa, the law firm where she worked was chosen to handle the country’s peace accords and presidential transition for Nelson Mandela following his release from prison.
Years later, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice called on her to draft a treatise on the legality of the second Gulf Conflict. Dr. Bunn-Livingstone then went to work for the State Department in the Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy and Labor as leader of both the IRF Multilateral Affairs and European Affairs Divisions, where she was given the State Department Meritorious Honor Award for “Extraordinary Performance in Support of United States Efforts in the United Nations Human Rights Council.”
Dr. Bunn-Livingstone said she soon became exposed to the concept of religious freedom as a human right. “God really wanted me to know about religious freedom,” she said, adding that millions of Christians are persecuted around the world.
Many of these offenses are concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa, she said.
However, organizations are working to expose the issues and work toward change, she said. “I’ve seen amazing miracles occur,” she said.
She closed her talk with a video clip from Archbishop Desmond Tutu praising the Cannes Peace Accord, which arose from the Arab Spring in Egypt. Dr. Bunn-Livingstone was active in the organization that hosted the talks.
“I would like to congratulate you all on your outstanding commitment to peace, unity and a bright future for Egypt,” he said in the video. “Always go forward, never look back and build upon every positive step you take.”
The introduction for Dr. Bunn-Livingstone’s talk was given by Kim Kerr, director of Partners International Women.
Dr. Bunn-Livingstone has been a legal consultant in Washington, D.C., for an initiative working on Muslim-Christian-Jewish interfaith dialogue for ambassadors, congressmen and senators; chief operating officer and legal counsel for a Washington D.C. nonprofit working for disadvantaged youth; executive director of a Washington D.C.-based international human rights non-governmental organization; and an active member of the California Bar for 19 years.
She also is a published author. Her most recent book, Juricultural Pluralism Vis-à-Vis Treaty Law, has a forward by the former president of the International Court of Justice, Sir Robert Jennings, and is an exposé on how culture influences the way in which nation states practice international human rights law.